Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Finding Your Own Arena

Bruce Jennerby Bruce Jenner

I am thrilled that I will be the keynote speaker this fall at CHADD’s 20th Annual International Conference on AD/HD. I have long been a big supporter of CHADD.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, there was no national organization working to raise awareness about people with different learning styles. Back then children with special needs failed in school, dropped out, or squeaked through with terrible self-esteem.

I struggled early on in elementary school. After going through testing, I was told by school officials that I had dyslexia. (I also struggled a great deal with attention issues, but AD/HD was not on anyone’s radar at the time.) Knowing I had dyslexia did me no good, however, because I was sent back to class with the expectation that I would do well without accommodations.

It should come as no surprise that my troubles in school began to take a toll on my self-esteem. Then something miraculous happened in fifth grade. I participated in a race and won. I was the fastest kid in my class! I had found what I call my “little arena,” and my self-esteem began to improve.

I often tell people that struggling with dyslexia has been my greatest gift. If I had been average, doing fine in school, I wouldn’t have needed sports. There was always that little dyslexic kid in the back of my mind who was going to out work the next guy.

I look forward to talking about my life experiences at CHADD’s conference. My hope is that attendees will hear my story and walk away with a better understanding of how they can build self-esteem by finding their own “little arenas.” I hope to see you there!

Bruce Jenner won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics. His willingness to talk about his own struggles with a learning disability has helped shape how society views learning disabilities and mental disorders.

CHADD’s International Conference on AD/HD will be held this year from November 12-15 in Anaheim, California. Registration begins in June.


Unknown said...

Thank you Bruce for all you've done to inspire!... with the exception of that E! reality show. Good grief. Ha! Just kidding... we love it. We're impressed with your exceptional skills in multiple arenas.

So glad you're involved with CHADD! We look forward to hearing you speak at the conference.

Say "hi" to the K & J kids!

- Melissa & Chad Hendricks
(Keeping Up with our 8-year-old Daughter)

Anonymous said...

Sounds good. I'm looking forward to your talk and my first CHADD conference.
Kristen Hagen
Sacramento, CA

Anonymous said...

Bruce: I watch your families show regularly. I happened to watch the one where you took the girls to watch you work as a speaker. I was very impressed and enjoyed the little of the speach that was aired on the show.

We live in Chicago and unfortunately we wouldn't be able to make the CHADD Leadership Conference but I would like to say something.

My son is 15 years old and still in the Chicago Public grammar school. He was diagnosed with ADD about 5 years ago. He did have a 504 plan but the school said they didn't have the staff or money to accomodate the plan. In addition, they refused to renew it because they said I took my son off Ritalin. (My husband had our reasons to take him off.) They also believe he is lazy and just doesn't want to be in school. It just frustrates me. They say there needs to be more structure at home and more studying. I can agree to some point but I really feel my son has given up.

Anyway, this year he failed 8th grade and has to go to summer school and if he doesn't pass summer school, he will go to an alternate school. If it comes to that, I will probably just pull him from school altoghter and have him try and get his GED. Some people don't understand my decision and would think I am allowing my son to fail. I think of it differently. I am comfortable with my decision because I have very intellegent conversations with my son and I see where his interest is and it comes very natural to him.

He is a SMART kid and is into computers and video recording. There are times he tells me about how something works or about some history statistic and he blows my mind. I'm not worried about him, I know he will do fine.

I too have ADD. Like you, ADD wasn't talked about or known. It wasn't until I identified with the same issues as my son was going through that I sought help about my own issue.

I dropped out of high school because I gave up. I made a lot of bad compulsive dangerous choices in my life, and didn't respect myself. I finally found something I was good at, that my self esteem grew amd I feel like I fit in. I'm now almost 40 and enrolled in college. I still struggle with things but I make provisions that help me.

I really appreciate you coming forward and representing CHADD. It is nice to see that just because you have a learning disability doesn't mean you are not smart or can become anything. If anything, I think we are creative and more intellegent. We all just learn in different ways and can't fit into the "cookie cutter" learning classroom.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to seeing you. Fired up and ready to go!

Anonymous said...

When I first trained in this field, I was fortunate to work with students with ADHD and dyslexia at a medical center where we expected each student to be a capable learner. We viewed "accommodations" as temporary while we taught each student to master not only academic skills, but also the strategies needed to apply them.

Our job as educators was to work with every student to help that student learn how to learn in a way that matched each student's talents. As Mr.Jenner described in his own educational experience, the educational system can short-change the individual learner who needs an effective intervention and remediation program.

"Accommodations" are often used to pass a student through the educational system which focuses on curriculum for each grade level instead of skill mastery for each student. Real academic skills build true self-esteem and provide an individual many positive choices in life. The same personality traits that athletes develop can be tapped to learn academic skills.

Many of my former students with dyslexia and/or ADHD have written to let me know what they have achieved since we worked together. One such student whose parents were told by her elementary school not to expect much from her, just graduated college. Not only was she on the Dean's List every year, but she graduated on the President's List with a 4.0 in her major. Her father wrote that his daughter should serve as a model for everyone not in the majority to know that it is possible to learn to live in the existing academic environment and to succeed. She and her parents attribute her successful college experience to her solid academic skills, her clear understanding of how she learns, and her training to apply that knowledge to master college level curriculum.

While it is true that early intervention makes the educational process easier, it is never too late to remediate to become an independent, competent learner.

Barbara Bennett, M.A.
Educational Therapist/Consultant
Seattle, WA

Anonymous said...

Bruce, Thank you for having the courage to honestly share about your learning differences and how sports enabled you to triumph. You Rock!! I have a 15 year old son with ADHD + social phobias and other learning difficulties. Next year my son starts high school and the special ed team is already balking at providing the accomodations he needs to be successful. Just from reading other parent's comments in this blog I see a common problem. If the US school systems cannot or will not accomodate these learning differences, then why not give parents a voucher so we can take our kids (and tax dollars) to special schools that will meet their needs. As a celebrity I wonder if you would consider helping lobby Wash. DC for this legislative measure. Our kid's futures are at stake and not all parents can afford to pay for private school education. Sincerely, Joann Long Denver CO

Anonymous said...

CHADD's gall at having Jenner contribute to its blog merely demonstrates how defensive Ross et. al. are about the ineffectuality of their practices. This is the new thing: Ross and other ADHD professionals can do little for adults with ADHD, so they trot out alleged ADHD suffers who supposedly overcame it through will power. Edward Hallowell began this despicable practice, with his books and websites citing "billionaires" who allegedly have ADHD. He and his partner "Kenny" Handelman are now in business selling their re-packaging of old fashion motivational-speaker huckstering.

You can now find scores of websites with long and outlandish lists of historical figures whom are asserted to have had ADHD. In many instances there is no possible way a responsible psychologist or psychiatrist could possible have enough information to know if the the individual in question had ADHD (e.g., de Vinci, for Godsake!). Yet CHAAD sites post lists of this kind, and link approvingly to wilder lists on other websites - including, despicably, lists that offer for our emulation robber-barons, racists, antisemities and, incredibly, that enthusiastic Nazi, Werner von Braun!

All this is is a resurfacing of the traditional "it's your fault" additude toward ADHD behavior, combined with "it's not *our* fault" as a psychological and professional defense by Ross and others who have yet to produce ADHD treatments, at least for adults, that they can show to be reproducibly effective at a statistically significant and non-trivial level.

The ADHD Blog said...

CHADD is sometimes accused of sticking too closely to the science and not venturing more into the motivational realm. But recently we received a blog response that accused us of the “re-packaging of old fashion motivational-speaker huckstering.” The writer goes on to accuse us of linking to lists of celebrities and historical figures with AD/HD. We have never prepared or published such a list.There were some other equally false assertions.People who self-identify as having AD/HD are encouraged to discuss their life experience. We respect that. We believe strongly in posting comments that take us to task or challenge the way we do things. But in doing so, we want to make sure that our readers know the truth.

E. Clarke Ross

Gina Pera said...

Somehow this thread and last post just came to my attention. I didn't know whether to laugh or, well, something. ;-)

Because, in my opinion, CHADD is completely focused on solid strategies and is as far away from the "gifts hucksterism" as possible.

I don't blame "anonymous" for being angry at that message, because it often denies and minimizes the challenges of adults with ADHD. But, in my experience, that message certainly has never been CHADD's. Quite the opposite.